Puerto Princesa City has beautiful beaches, caves, forests and wildlife attractions. It has good museums, places to buy local arts and craft, and lots of opportunities for hiking, spelunking and bird watching. It's also the capital of Palawan, ideal for holding meetings and conventions because the city has enough hotel rooms and function rooms.
A major development in Puerto Princesa is the opening of the Puerto Princesa International Airport in the second quarter of 2017. The new airport will accommodate up to two million passengers annually. And soon, there will be direct flights from Clark Airport in Angeles City to Puerto Princesa, and in the future, from Taipei, Macau, Hongkong and Korea. We now have taxis in the city. New hotels that have recently opened are Ai World Resort and Best Western – The Ivy Wall Hotel.
New attractions in the city are…the Hundred Caves in Tagabinet, go-cart racing in Sta. Monica, and Pulang Bato hikes organized by the Batak Community. And we now have the annual dragon boat races along Puerto Bay, International Kite Boarding at Blue Palawan Beach Club, and surfing in Nagtabon Beach. Every Friday and Saturday, go to the Baracalan Market Fair at the park in front of the PPC Coliseum on National Hiighway in the village of San Pedro for traditional arts and craft, local food products, plants and flowers, dry goods, fast food, and to listen to live folk music. Palawan Heritage Tours are now available to book, covering the Heritage Museum, WWII Museum, Heritage Area including Plaza Cuartel, Rizal Park, Cathedral, Princess Eulalia Park, Governor's Residence, Puerto Bay Walk, Iwahig Penal Farm, etc. (Palawan Heritage Tours are by special arrangement. Contact Rajah Travel's Loubelle Mercado at email@example.com for Manila booking, and SMY Travel's Stephen Yee at firstname.lastname@example.org for Puerto Princesa City booking.)
Not to miss in Puerto Princesa is…the ATV and mountain biking trail in Bacungan.
(Contact Jessica of Blue Palawan, tel: +63917 831 4118).
What I love most about Puerto Princesa is the healthy living —fresh seafood and vegetables, laid-back vibe, its raw natural beauty and fresh clean air.
To me, world-famous Puerto Princesa Underground River is truly deserving to be part of the New 7 Wonders of the World and of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fossilized remains of a sea cow locally called "dugong" could be seen if you book a special, longer tour of the PPUR.
My 10 must-experience attractions in Puerto Princesa are…the underground river tour; snorkeling and island hopping in Honda Bay to see colorful corals and a wide variety of fish species; heritage tour; Sta. Monica Butterfly Farm and an encounter with the Palawán indigenous people to learn their way of life; the Sabang X Zip Line to zip high above rushing waves and picturesque Sabang Beach; firefly watching in Iwahig River and in Puerto Bay with dinner on a floating restaurant while being serenaded with ethnic music; Sabang River mangrove paddle boat tour to see century-old mangroves and occasional monkeys, birds and sea snakes; caving and spelunking in Ugong Rock and then going on a zip-wire ride over rice fields; caving and spelunking in Hundred Caves to see fantastic stalactites, stalagmites and other cave formations from daylight holes to glittering stones; the San Miguel Souvenir Center to shop for pearls, cashew nuts and cashew food products, lamayo semi-dried danggit fish and other dried fish, Palawan handicraft (noteworthy are the Binutan Weaving Arts and Crafts, Sta. Monica and Rurungan sa Tubod for pina silk products, and Jojo’s Asiano Art Shop); and the Tabon Caves in Quezon Municipality along the western coast of Southern Palawan, where the remains of the Tabon Man, dating back some 16,500 years, were found in a carved burial jar.
My favorite hotels, aside from my own four-star Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort in Sabang Beach, are Aziza Paradise Hotel, which is tastefully decorated and has a large convention hall that can accommodate up to 2,000 people; and the three-star Hotel Centro, a strategically located business hotel in the middle of town with function rooms, a swimming pool and a good restaurant.
My favorite restaurants in Puerto Princesa are…La Terrasse Restaurant, an organic restaurant on Rizal Avenue, for their adobo overload, salad nicoise and fried duck wraps; Kalui Restaurant on Rizal Avenue, which imbibes Palawan’s artsy ambience and has a good set menu of sizzling tuna, sautéed vegetables, grilled, shrimp and fruit dessert; seafood sisig and eel adobo; Fujisan Japanese Restaurant on Manalo Extension Street for eat-all-you-can Hibachi style teppanyaki, tuna sashimi, cold soba and shrimp tempura; Kusina ni Tito Ernie on Abanico Road, a casual dining place that serves beef adobo sandwich, tinapa (smoked fish) pasta and pork spare ribs; Namaskar Vegetarian Restaurant on Burgos Street for fried tofu and vegetable lumpia; Viet Ville Vietnamese Restaurant (+63920 220 8694) on Sta. Lourdes Main Highway for authentic Vietnamese; and Badjao Seafront, uniquely set over the water at the end of a boardwalk on top of mangroves.
For bars, I go to…The Gypsy's Lair Art Cafe for beer below zero and live entertainment by local artists; Kinabuch Bar and Grill for beer and chows like grilled squid, steamed lapu-lapu (grouper), and tuna kinilaw or ceviche; and Palaweño Brewery where I order their beer tasting set made of top four Palawan beers.
When in town, buy…woven products like bags, wallets, placemats, table runners and curtain shades from Binuatan Weaving Creations; piña silk products like shawls, blouses, bags and wallets from Rurungan Sa Tubod on Abanico Road; Surublien Palawan Food Products, made by local Palawan producers such as cashew products and by-products, dried fish, cashew wine, and Palawan honey; Delma Pearls in Villa San Miguel, trustworthy source for quality pearls sold at a fair price; quality Palawan handicrafts and local ethnic jewelry from Jojo's Asiano Art Shop on Rizal Avenue; local art by Palawan artists Jonathan Benitez and Mario Lubrico; and Palawan mats.
Best to go to Puerto Princesa during…the rainy months of July, August, September and October when most of the hotels and resorts offer discounted rates.
Besides Puerto Princesa City, I would go to these places in Palawan: Coron for wreck diving, island hopping, snorkeling in Coral Garden, tours of Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoons, Mount Tapyas, Maquinit Hot Springs and Siete Pecados; Busuanga for the Calauit Wild Life Safari where you can feed giraffes and see the Palawan Calamian deer and zebras; historic Culion Island to see its fort, church and museum; El Nido for island hopping, diving, snorkeling, and sites such as Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Cuyunon Cultural Village in Sibaltan, and Via Ferrata Nature Trail to a view deck; Port Barton in San Vicente for diving, island hopping and snorkeling; Taytay for the Malampaya Sound Protected Land and Seascape, Lake Danao, Fort Isabelle, and island hopping, snorkeling and diving; Estrella Falls in Narra, Palawan where you can swim and go on hiking tours to see other waterfalls in the area, various unique fauna and flora like the Venus fly-trap endemic to Palawan; Arena Island, also in Narra, to see the conservation efforts to save the sea turtles; Mount Mantalingahan in the south for trekking with local guides to see the local wildlife including flowers like the giant meter-wide rafflesia; and Rasa Island Katala (Cockatoo) and Bird Sanctuary, still in Narra, for boating and bird watching.
For something unique, I encourage tourists to…try the fresh seafood and if they have the stomach for it, the kinilaw na tamilok (local wood worm ceviche) that tastes like oysters but a bit milky and woody, and the local seaweeds called lato. See the Batak Village in Concepcion and go on the Mauyon River Cruise for leisurely lunch onboard a river raft and a stop to see a very huge century-old Dao Tree half uprooted but still very much alive. You could climb up its giant roots or go under it for great photo-ops.
Debbie Tan is the president of the Palawan Tourism Council and owner of Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort, a four-star beachfront resort located in Sabang, Puerto Princesa.
Published April 2017